Learning to Live without Hugo

In this analysis, Venezuelan journalist Aram Aharonian talks about how Venezuelans are “trying to learn to survive without the presence of” Chavez, referring to both the opposition and his supporters, and looks at the uncritical “silence” of the bureaucracy within the government, as well as the latest revelations in cables leaked by Wikileaks.


Venezuelans are trying to learn to survive without the presence of President Hugo Chavez. Everyone misses him; the Bolivarians [government supporters] and the opposition, equally. Because politics in Venezuela has revolved around him for the last thirteen years. While Chavez is still in Cuba after undergoing surgery for a pelvic abscess and without a publicly known precise diagnosis.

Among the daily questions is who will succeed the leader if his illness is extended (Vice-president Elias Jaua?) [until] the confirmation of the constituting act of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) set for 5 July in Caracas and the elections next year of the president and governors.

The opposition see their reason for existing in terms of what Chavez says, decrees, opinions, expropriates, signs, declaims, or relates. All their vicissitudes are, without doubt, Chavez’s fault. Those who showed they were ready to assassinate the “baddie” are now demanding his quick return.

On the other hand, all the hopes of the Chavista masses are invested in the leader, and unfortunately there’s no one with enough credibility and charisma who could come out with a calming message. Never have so many Venezuelans been so helpless, so lost, with an enormous question mark on their foreheads.

And over the last two weeks, because of the absence of the head of state, the text message chains, rumours, gossip, and the most unlikely tales have circulated through the formal information services and via informal means, from Radio Bemba [a Mexican alternative radio] to Twitter.

The opposition is dying to get rid of him, by voting or however, but it’s enough that he’s away for a few days and they miss him. Chavez sets the political and informational agenda and the opposition complains about what he says and does as if that were the only reason for their existence. They don’t have any alternative plans, proposals, or a new project for the country.

The Venezuelan foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, said that President Hugo Chavez is in charge of the government and he’s fighting for his life – referring to the state of his health – something that many understood as meaning that he has a terminal illness. “The battle that President Chavez is fighting for his health has to be everyone’s battles, the battle for life, for the immediate future of our country. This is what we can pass on to our fellow countrymen and woman,” said Maduro.

And the vice-president Elias Jaua came out and clarified, “The national and international right wing is going crazy, rubbing its hands together…even talking about the death of the president. They go about it like on 11 April 2002 [the date of the coup against Chavez]. We would remind them that here every 11 has its 13 of April [when the coup was overturned] and that Chavez will be here for a while.”

The Silence of Innocent People

In the last two months a series of controversies have passed through the Bolivarian ranks. One of those that still hasn’t healed and that has resulted in criticism by Venezuelan and Latin American left wing intellectuals and censure from the layers of Bolivarian power, was the deportation of Joaquin Perez Becerra, director of the news agency Anncol, as well as the arrest of FARC member Julian Conrado in Barinas state. Some apologists for the handovers even prefer to confuse international solidarity with interference in internal affairs.

The sociologist Javier Biardeau, as he was defending the critical voices, suggested that this happens in the mentioned case, but also in millions of cases that translate the decomposition of the Bolivarian revolution, its retrogression. “Without critical voices, there won’t be three Rs, let alone a million [referring to the revolution’s three Rs of Rectification, Revision, and Reimpulse]. It’s enough with one step…Rectify”.

The pro-Chavez Collective of Workers in Revolution (CRT) said that those who fight for socialism, against the techno-bureaucracy and capital, are condemned to pay for the silence of the innocents [or the fools] for not letting themselves be “co-opted, led, or “godfathered” by sectors of the leadership of the party and/or the government, which is basically the same. The idea is to hide failures, irregularities, betrayals that this new caste of privileged people and small-bourgeoisie commit daily against the political lines of the revolution, against Chavez and the Chavista people, at all cost.

Further on the workers say that “they [the bureaucracy] are the official-ism [officials of the government], and we’re the Chavez-ism, they are the privileged, and we are the excluded, they exercise their power using moral and psychological paid killings, and we construct and strengthen our organisations in the daily battle between capital and work, with daily actions and mobilisations. The silence of the fools is the stigma that we’re subjected to – when there aren’t spaces for debate, discussion and collective construction, or simple the resolution of conflicts”.

They add that [the bureaucracy] functions with strict orders to make invisible, to not put on air, publish, or interview on state media, those who defend the rights of workers and the revolutionary process. “It’s not convenient for them because we’re critical; we’re a threat to the tecno-bureaucracy and its small-bourgeoisie privileges”.

They say that the silence of the “fools” functions like a “moral hired killing, like psychological terrorism, and blackmail to shut-up those who struggle, to silence those who denounce corruption and bad government, to end with those who grow ethically and morally, because we’re coherent with what we say and do.”

Wikileaks Pulls the Petals off the Opposition

This time it was the Colombian magazine Semana, like last time it was the Spanish daily El Pais, which filtered a cable revealed by Wikileaks and left the president of the main party of the opposition, Democratic Action (AD), Henry Ramos Allup in very bad light.

This time the cable pointed to the legislator Ismael Garcia, of the party Podemos, and other leaders (Juan Jose Molina and Ricardo Gutierrez) who met with [U.S] ambassador Patrick Duddy in order to request financing through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other United States government funds.

“This is the time to begin,” legislator Ismael Garcia said to the ambassador of the United States in Caracas, Patrick Duddy, when Duddy commented to him in September 2009 that Washington wouldn’t intervene in Venezuela’s affairs. At that time Podemos, with six legislators, was the only opposition party in the National Assembly. It had separated from Chavez-ism in 2007. Garcia justified his petition for money – including for setting up a radio or television station – by the possible risks that U.S interests were facing with the presence of Cuba and Iran in the country.

In Venezuela no one doubts the truth of the fact, but what is surprising is that the same thing comes out when the Democratic Unity Table [opposition umbrella group] tries to wrap up the opposition, debates its internal candidates and tries to unburden itself of personalities who could impede a united solution.

Just like no one doubts the other cable leaked by Wikileaks that sustains that the pope John Paul II ordered Venezuelan priests to refrain from participating in efforts to bring down Chavez almost ten years ago. In that case, the Venezuelan ecclesiastical hierarchy defied the Pope, with the encouragement of the George W Bush administration.

Cables from the State Department indicated that officials of the Church in the Vatican informed U.S. diplomats about the concerns of the Pope, but they recognised that the Catholic bishops of the counter were going to possibly ignore the orders, as was shown alter, they were involved in the coup d’état and the petroleum sabotage [in 2002 and 2003].

Within the opposition they are still looking for a uniting candidate, as their internal elections approach next February, but also it shows that it’s not enough to criticise the government.

To get into power the opposition should present an alternative political-economic project, because to play at waiting for the political suicide of the government at the feet of the voter makes it seem that the opposition doesn’t have an alternative to offer.

Within the leadership of the opposition they are arriving at a consensus to not hurry things: If Chavez can’t reintegrate himself partially or totally, the vice-president will finish of the term.

The fear of the leaders is that if Chavez isn’t the candidate in 2012, all possibility of unity among them, among those who oppose him, will evaporate.

*Aram Aharonian is a Uruguayan-Venezuelan journalist and teacher, editor of the magazine Question, founder of Telesur, director of the Latin American Observatory in Communication and Democracy (ULAC)

Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com